Sheet Pan

Lemon Sheet Cake Layer Cake

August 24, 2017
5 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Makes one 6 1/2 x 9 inch layer cake
Author Notes

Want to make a layer cake but don't want all the fuss? Try this sheet cake layer cake—it only takes one baking sheet to make a super fabulous two layer cake! You can never go wrong with the classic combo of lemon on lemon on lemon: lemon cake, lemon buttercream, and lemon curd. All lemon, all the time! —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
  • Lemon Sheet Cake
  • 2 sticks (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (397 g) granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 5 large (284 g) eggs
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups (512 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon (12 g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (227 g) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) sour cream
  • Filling and Frosting
  • 7 large (255 g) egg whites
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 2 2/3 cups (510 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (227 g) water
  • 6 sticks (678 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) lemon oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 356 g) prepared lemon curd
  • lemon zest, as needed for finishing
  1. Make the cake: preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 13x18-inch baking sheet (half sheet pan) with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper lightly with nonstick spray, too.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to combine. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the milk and sour cream to combine.
  5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter and mix to incorporate. Add ½ of the milk mixture and mix to combine. Repeat, adding alternate additions of flour and milk until both are fully incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. While the cake is warm, run a small offset spatula or paring knife around the outside edge to loosen it anywhere it’s stuck. Cool completely in the pan.
  7. While the cakes cool, make the buttercream. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment.
  8. Combine the sugar and water in a medium pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir the mixture until it begins to simmer, then stop stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot.
  9. If any sugar has washed up on the sides of the pot, brush it away with a pastry brush dipped in cool water. Cook the sugar mixture until it reads 235°F on the thermometer.
  10. When the sugar reaches 235°F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium high speed. The idea is to get them to soft peaks by the time the sugar reaches 245°F.
  11. When the sugar reaches 245°F, carefully pour it into the mixer in a slow, steady stream while the mixer is running. Continue to whip the mixture until it’s very white, thick, and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.
  12. Begin adding the butter to the mixer. If the meringue is still hot, the butter will just melt and the whole thing will be gloopy – so make sure it’s cooled off. Add the butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time, letting each addition incorporate before you add the next. Sometimes, the mixture will look broken about halfway through—just keep whipping, it will come around!
  13. Add the lemon oil and mix to combine. Taste the buttercream and add more oil to taste. Transfer about 1/4 of the buttercream to a disposable pastry bag and cut a ½ inch opening from the tip.
  14. To assemble the cake, remove the cake from the baking sheet. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the cake cleanly in half to create two rectangular layers (13 x 9 inch each).
  15. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the cake to create an icing “retaining wall.” Scoop the lemon curd inside the icing ring, and spread into an even layer.
  16. Place another cake layer on top and press down gently. Chill the cake for 15-30 minutes.
  17. Apply a crumb coat to the top and sides of the cake using an offset spatula. Chill for 15-30 minutes.
  18. Frost the top of the cake, then the sides. Remove the excess “wall” of frosting from the upper edge of the cake by swiping across the surface with the spatula.
  19. Decorate the cake as desired. I like to pipe a border at the top edge using excess frosting, and top each with some lemon zest. If you have any extra lemon curd, you can spread a thin layer on top of the frosting. Refrigerate the cake not serving right away, but bring to room temp again before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • SMSF
  • Sara Costa
    Sara Costa
  • Justine Kajtar
    Justine Kajtar
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

12 Reviews

SMSF January 8, 2020
At the top of this recipe it states that the final cake size is 6.5" x 9". The correct size for two layers will be 13" x 9" as described correctly in the actual recipe (13" x 18" cake, then cut in half to make 2 layers).
Julie June 24, 2019
In case anyone was wondering -- I was able to make two 6" rounds and two 8" rounds with this recipe!
Sara C. March 26, 2019
Hi! I'm thinking about making this recipe for my father's 70th birthday party which will have 70 people... Do you think that doubling the recipe will do? If not do you have any suggestions? I'm thinking about filling it with raspberry buttercream, but still don't now how to frost it on top, but maybe follow the lemony italian buttercream you used on this one. Thank you!
Sara C. March 26, 2019
Actually, I'm thinking about: 12x19 inch cake... (around 230 in area, so... 4 times the recipe? (help me Lord! :D)
tosacem July 20, 2020
I'm not an expert, but I don't think I would double the recipe but make the recipe as many times as needed to get enough cake(s) for 70 people. Freeze as you make them and then frost/decorate starting two days before event. You will need lots of fridge space. Baking is kind of a science in my opinion, and I wouldn't double a cake recipe. Hoping some experts weigh in.
Linda April 10, 2018
This sounds delicious! How many people (women) would this cake serve? I'm thinking of making this for a baby shower brunch.
lyric H. March 13, 2018
is it possible to make this in a round baking dish?
Justine K. October 28, 2017
Erin, the three recipes look fabulous! I am making the lemon one next week to celebrate finishing up Uni (i.e. in American terms, college) for the year. My only question, is how high would you recommend the sheet pan being? You only state the width and length.
Erin J. October 28, 2017
Standard half sheet pans are 1 inch high - anything at least 3/4 inch tall would work though!
Justine K. October 28, 2017
Thanks Erin. And so I guess the cake will rise above the sheet pans, but not spill over? The cakes in the images look much wider that 1 inch.
Erin J. October 28, 2017
Yes! The nice thing about baking a shorter cake like this is the increased surface area (as compared to a 9 inch round cake pan, for example) means the cake sets more quickly - no worries about spilling over! It will rise a hi taller than the pan, but it will definitely be firmly set before it reaches that height!
Justine K. October 31, 2017
Ok. Perfect!!! I can't wait!!! Thanks Erin.
p.s. Your book is on it's way to me (Melbourne, Australia) via Amazon. I'm suuuuuuper excited!! X